Broncos Insider: Peyton Manning’s a lock for the hall of fame. Here are 5 other Denver players who are deserving.

Peyton Manning was announced on Tuesday as one of four first-timers to qualify for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It seems like a no-brainer that the former Broncos quarterback and member of the NFL’s top 100 player list of all time will be inducted.

Former Denver security John Lynch also landed on the semi-finalist list.

But while Manning is a safe lock for Canton, several former Broncos have been overlooked over the years. Here’s a look at some worthy of it:

Randy Gradishar, linebacker (1974-1983)

It is absurd that Gradishar, given his credentials, is not entrenched in Canton. A defensive Player of the Year in 1978, a seven-time Pro Bowler and, as former Denver Post defeated writer Mike Klis wrote, “by far the best player in that Orange Crush defense.”

Karl Mecklenburg, linebacker / defensive lineman (1983-1994)

Versatile and Mecklenburg go together like peanut butter and jelly. He played all seven defensive positions for the Broncos, earning four All-Pro kinks and six Pro Bowl appearances along the way.

Tom Nalen, center (1994-2008)

The anchor of the acclaimed Broncos Super Bowl-winning teams of the ’90s, Nalen’s resume deserves to land Denver’s old town in Canton. A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, he led the lines that paved the way for six different running backs who could run 1,000 meters in a season.

Rod Smith, wide receiver (1995-2006)

The Broncos’ all-time leader in receptions (849), yards receiving (11,389) and touchdown receptions (68). When he retired, he was ranked 17th all-time in the NFL in receiving yards. Fourteen of the 16 – Henry Ellard and Jimmy Smith are the exceptions – are in the room. And unlike Rod Smith, all 16 had been called up.

Louis Wright, cornerback (1975-1986)

“As (former Broncos defense coordinator Joe) Collier would attest, Wright was a lunge before the term was invented,” Mark Kiszla wrote in a 2013 column. At a 6-foot-2,200-pound angle, he made a total of 26 interceptions and 11 fumble recovery during his time in Denver. He was also named on the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

Joe nguyen, The Denver Post


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